Making the Change Part 2: The Transition
Picking up where I left off, talking about change. If you haven’t read part 1, you can find it here:
It was the beginning of fall in 2020. At work, my counterpart out of Des Moines, IA had quit for greener pastures the week before. My boss was cagy about his plans for the future. I asked him if he planned to hire a replacement. He said, “I’m going to do something…”
That something came a week later in a group call for our region that announced we would execute a brand new proof of concept for Home Depot Installation Services. The Regional General Manager read a pre-written statement and scheduled 15 minute one-on-ones with everyone in the region.
They had just eliminated my position. In a few weeks they would restructure the operations team. I would either get a promotion or transition to an hourly field tech position.
At first, I was all kinds of excited. After all, I love new challenges and opportunities for growth.
I was pretty sure that I would get an offer for one of two new District Installation Manager spots, but waiting for the news was pretty tough. They bumped my base salary by 10% but changed my bonus from monthly to semi-annual, and dropped it by 10%. My “promotion” was evidently more responsibility, stress and travel for essentially the same pay.
I took over the Des Moines market and a few days later, the one installation crew working in the area got mad and quit. I also picked up southern Minnesota with its own set of unique challenges.
Over the course of the next year, my coworker, Kiara, and I managed installations for a 5-state territory while we hired and trained 12 people. We were tasked with restructuring the business as a model for the rest of the company. I outlined curriculum for new Service/Measure Techs. Kiara had a system for training the installation coordinators that worked out of the office.
We made most of it up as we went along. Honestly, we had no idea what we were doing. I felt like we were on our own, hacking our way through thick brush in the jungle.
Meanwhile, the pandemic raged on. That summer, when our business should have been at its height, our window supplier’s computer system was hacked. Their entire operation was shut down. A few months later, they dumped 6 months of windows on our tiny warehouse over the span of a couple of weeks.
Our new measure guys were making a lot of mistakes, thanks to my not-so-excellent training plan. Which meant we waited several months for windows that would end up as donations to Habitat ReStore.
Customers were not always kind. The stress of the pandemic was tough on a lot of people. My phone call was often the breaking point. I was told more than once that this window install was creating problems for people’s marriage.
I kept thinking, it’s going to get better, but I’m not sure I’m going to make it there.
Have you ever felt that way? It has to get better. But am I going to make it long enough to see better?
The people in Atlanta who envisioned this change thought we would meet our new normal in 6 months. Their timelines proved to be short only by a couple of years.
Since then, I’ve spent a fair amount of time reflecting on change and transitions.
In the middle of all this, I read a very boring but helpful book called Managing Transitions: Making the Most of Change by William and Susan Bridges. Here’s the gist: Transition always begins with an ending and ends with a new beginning.
In 2021 I reached my breaking point. The truth is, I really thought I was going to get fired. I refused to rehire an installer in Des Moines that I had let go for poor workmanship. My boss told me that when the Regional General Manager tells you to do something, you don’t say no. I was saying a hard no. I was the one who had to convince and pay someone to drive 3 hours to fix his shitty work. I was the one who had to talk to the upset customer and try to reassure them that we would fix it.
The first time I thought about quitting my job at Home Depot after 15 years, I cried. Not just a little sniffle, but like, several days of sadness. I had imagined I would continue to promote and work there until retirement.
I didn’t get fired. But the seed was planted. And I started to imagine what my future might look like if I didn’t bleed orange.
It took almost a year for me to find the next step in my career.
My last day at Home Depot was bitter sweet. I was super excited about my new job, but I was also very sad. I had invested a lot of me in the business and the people there. Let’s be real, there were a lot of great people I probably wouldn’t see again.
Sometimes you need to take a minute to grieve. Transition begins with an ending. We are moving forward, but we are also leaving something behind. And that might be sad.
I remember when Adam and I were engaged. My therapist told me every choice comes with loss. I was losing the opportunity to date other people. Life is about figuring out the loss you can live with the most. Marrying Adam turned out to be a great change in my life, but like many things it’s been a process of transition to the new normal.
There are often life decisions that require us to leave something, someone, somewhere behind. Recognizing that loss and taking a minute to reflect and let go is the first step in making a strong transition.
It is common for some to stomp their foot in protest and rant about how much better things would be if they just stayed the same. Whatever the new way is, we won’t do it. No matter how great the thing is, we don’t want it.
Sometimes change means admitting that the way we have been doing things doesn’t work. Maybe it means I have to rethink my ideas. Admitting a mistake, reflecting on the damage it might have caused. That’s hard work! Sometimes we just don’t want to do it. Status quo, it’s terrible but at least it’s familiar.
All that protest against change, it’s not helpful.
But taking a moment to be sad for what we had is ok.
All that to say, initiating change or even deciding you’re going to embrace change as it’s thrust upon you, takes courage.
Before you’re ready, it will be time for step two of transition. It’s the worst. It’s the time in between. You left the old way behind but you haven’t reached the new. Everything feels upside down and backwards.
The thing about change is that it can really go either way. There is always a risk that things could get worse or take you to a place you don’t want to be. We human beings hate uncertainty. Unpredictability makes us anxious. When we can’t see what’s next, imagining all the best and worst case scenarios can be overwhelming.
If you’re in this middle place, take a minute to give yourself some compassion. If you have a friend that’s going through it, give them a break. They probably aren’t their best selves right now. Transition requires the courage to start and serious perseverance to keep going.
When I try to make hard changes, this middle place sometimes gets the best of me. When I decided I wanted to pursue writing, I came out of the gate running. How do I build a following? Start a blog. Check. How do I grow my skills? Join a writers group. Check.
Then I have to go to work at my new job that’s kinda boring and my boss keeps giving me stuff to do. The dream of spending my days in contemplation seems so far away…
Change isn’t hard. Getting to the change is the hard part. No one likes this part of transition. Can we fast forward to the good part, please? We long for that moment where we feel like the a new day has dawned and everything is warm and easy.
I think that’s why the evangelical Christian tradition has emphasized being born again or getting saved. We say things like “Repeat after me, ‘Lord Jesus, come into my heart and save me.’” Just say the prayer and your whole life with be better.
One of my favorite verses is 2 Corinthians 5:17, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!”
Yes! I want to be remade new. I want to let go of all my bad habits. I want to only speak kind words of encouragement. I want people to know God’s love in every conversation.
Except sometimes I wake up the next morning and it’s a lot harder to be God’s new creation than praying a short prayer. While taking a first step is extremely valuable, it has to be the first of many. Sometimes that feels overwhelming and impossible. We get stuck.
Earlier in this same letter to the Corinthians, Paul says something else interesting… “But whenever anyone turns to the Lord… [We] are being transformed into [God’s] image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord…” (2 Corinthians 3.16 & 18)
I love these two Scripture passages because it reminds me that God is doing something in me. I’m not always sure what it is, but I know I’m not on my own. In the middle of the suck, God is helping me change from the inside out. We are a new creation, but we are also being transformed.
The thing about transition is that sometimes you just have to keep going.
No matter how dark it feels, hope comes with the morning dawn. If you can imagine it, you can hope. If you hope, you can keep moving forward.
Imagine with me.
What does the dawn look like?
Everything feels out of control, hopeless, chaotic or worst of all, comfortable. Now is the time to dream again. The light is just ahead. Just over the horizon, what do you see?